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By DAVE TAYLOR
Landmark News Service
It was a game that, while running the gamut of emotions, gave each team an opportunity to give the spectators a clinic to demonstrate the excellence of both an offensive effort for one and a defensive effort for the other. In the end, Carroll County took home the laurels of the second round of the annual border rivalry match-up with the Trimble County Raiders. Final score: 73-65.
The game began with procedure unprecedented in the history of both schools’ basketball programs, in which each team scored 14 uncontested points to enable injured Carroll County senior Dallas Gibson to reach the 1,000-point plateau to close his high school basketball career. Gibson was 13 points short of that mark when he was sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in early January.
Trimble head coach Johnny Leep III approached his team and school administrators in advance of the game and secured their blessing to allow Gibson to reach his goal.
“I really, really appreciate Trimble County for their willingness to do that,” Carroll head coach Carroll Yager said following the game. “This has been a rivalry that I can personally remember for about 50 years. Even though it’s been a rivalry, I think both counties like each other. This is a great thing that Coach Leep did, and I think it was a class act. My hat’s off to Trimble County and Coach Leep for their willingness to do that.”
The game drew the media attention of WAVE-3 television and a live broadcast by WIKI radio, in addition to local newspaper personnel.
“I didn’t know WAVE 3
was going to be here,” Gibson said, as well-wishers extended congratulatory hugs following the game. “It’s been kind of nerve-wracking, but it’s really been a true honor to my family to come watch me do this, and for my coaches and teammates. It’s been a real true honor for the coaches to let me do this and to be able to reach the 1,000-point level in front of all my family and a lot of fans here tonight, and to get the W is really quite an exciting moment for me.”
“Dallas is such a good person and really deserving of a better season and better cards than he was dealt when he got hurt,” Yager said. “It cut his season short, and this is something he was really hoping for. At the start of the game, I think the guys were playing with a lot of emotion because we talked about that, and they not only wanted him to get his 1,000th point, but they wanted him to be able to remember it as a game that we were also able to win.”
Trimble won the tip, and senior Ethan Merrill scored seven straight layups. The ball was then passed in to Gibson, who scored seven more layups.Once the hoopla surrounding the Gibson scenario subsided, the two teams got into the seriousness of the rivalry, starting the contested portion of the game with the score tied at 14.
Trimble County’s Raiders gave Carroll County and the crowd in attendance a clinic on how to shoot the trey, fronting 33-30 after a quarter of play, and racing to a 53-46 halftime advantage behind the strength of nine three-point baskets.
“At halftime we thought we played pretty well, even though we were behind,” Yager said. “We looked at the stats and we thought we had played well and we thought Trimble had played really, really well. I said at halftime, ‘Guys, if we’re going to win, they can’t keep hitting these threes, whatever we’ve got to do—whether it’s change defenses some or get out there on them. I felt like the pace was a little bit too fast for us. (Trimble) shoots the ball well and we were just fortunate.”
“Unfortunately, the most meaningless score in a high school basketball game is the halftime score,” Leep said. “I thought we came out in the third quarter and did some nice things. They switched up their defense there in the fourth quarter and went to more of a zone. Their length kind of bothered us. They were deflecting passes. They just made more plays than we did. Even though they were missing three starters tonight, they were the better team.”
The Panthers took charge defensively in the second half, turning the tables on the Raiders and giving the crowd an excellent clinic in how to play defense. They held the Raiders to just 12 second-half points, including just two treys.
“We kind of live and die by the three sometimes,” Leep said. “We lived well in the first half and we died miserably in the second half, unfortunately. I felt like (in the second half) we played not to lose instead of playing to win. You can’t do that. You’ve got to play to win. We’re up 10 and then when that lead kind of slipped away and they got the lead, I don’t know if it’s from being a young team or what, but we just pretty much folded the tent.”
“It was a heck of a basketball game, it really was,” Yager said. “It was a very well played game. Both teams played exceptionally well. (Trimble is) very well coached and they played well.”
Trey Boles came up big for the Panthers, scoring 24 points. In addition to Gibson’s given 14 points at the start of the game, three other Panthers reached double figures. Brandon Stewart scored 11 while Patrick Booth and Jacob Wise each added 10 and John Michael Adams scored four.
“Trey Boles was the best player on the floor, the bottom line,” Leep said. “That’s why he’s being recruited by about six colleges who have offered him full rides. With Dallas getting hurt, it has kind of allowed him to step up and showcase what he can do, and he’s a tremendous player.”
“Trey has really stepped up since Dallas went down,” Yager said. “We have pretty good depth anyway, which I think our depth is really showing up because we’ve had injury after injury. We played without what was originally three starters and Brandon’s still about 60 percent. So we had what we thought was pretty good depth but Trey has really decided that we’re going to continue to have a good season and he’s really elevated his game in all areas. I told the kids that what we’re expecting out of you is not the same as we were expecting when we had everybody and they’ve responded well. They’re really a good coach-able group and a fun group to be around.”
Carroll County outscored the Raiders 27-12 in the final 16 minutes.
“Our turnovers were tremendous, our shot selection was poor at times,” Leep said of his team’s second-half effort. “That’s kind of the way we’ve played all year. We’re loose with it. Sometimes it turns out great and sometimes it doesn’t. If that happens in the first or second quarter you can survive it. But when it happens in the final five minutes it’s a nail in the coffin.”
Trimble’s offensive effort was paced by Merrill’s 25 points, including the 14 uncontested. Andie Young hit four 3-pointers for 12 points. Evan Long contributed nine, Robbie Brooks seven and Michael Dunaway and DustyWyssbrod each added six.